Evaluators’ potential role in the current sociopolitical environment by Dominica McBride

AEA365 Curator note: We generally feature posts by AEA staff and AEA365 Curators on Saturdays, and are now pleased to offer occasional Saturday blog posts from our esteemed AEA Board members!

Hi, I am Dominica McBride with Become: Center for Community Engagement and Social Change and serve you on the AEA Board of Directors.

John F. Kennedy said, “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a [person] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

In the midst of national leaders acting against our values as an organization, explicitly marginalizing many who find a professional home in AEA and harming communities that many of us serve, I believe we are called as professionals and human beings to make ripples.

In the face of a grim reality, I have hope, especially given what I know about us as evaluators. We are connected to various organizations that are connected to many people, from residents to leaders. We’re able to critically and empirically explore the intersection of our content area and the sociopolitical context and how we may use our position and expertise to move forward on a broader issue. We have a unique set of skills – to gather information, think critically, analyze, synthesize and communicate. We are able to partner with organizations and leaders in many ways to use our skillset towards action around an issue.

With this potential, there are various possibilities for a new or refined role for evaluators to make a necessary difference in this environment. For example, we could:

  • Advocate or mobilize our partners, clients and communities to move in a common direction
  • Build resilience in the systems and institutions that are being depleted of resources
  • Help communities construct new systems and programs that work for and, in many cases, could be run by them

Hot Tips:

Begin one-on-one meetings with your clients, partners, colleagues or fellow community members. Remember to reach out and listen to those not often included in evaluation, such as returning citizens from incarceration, single mothers struggling to get by, and disenfranchised youth. Listen for recurring themes about what matters to them and what may motivate them to act collectively.

After those meetings, convene groups around that common issue to develop a plan of action and ground that action in evidence.


Rad Resource:

To learn more about advocacy, mobilizing and organizing and for examples on successful collective action, read Jane McAlevey’s book No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age.

*If you’re interested in exploring or working together around these possibilities, please reach out to me at dmcbride@becomecenter.org or 312-394-9274.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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